By Joseph Lawler
Politico reports that Doug Kmiec, the U.S. ambassador to Malta, is resigning:
A U.S. ambassador has offered the Obama administration his resignation after he was accused of spending too much time writing and speaking about his Roman Catholic beliefs to the detriment of his diplomatic duties.
His decision to step down comes just days after the State Department’s inspector general issued an audit asserting that Kmiec spent too much of his time expressing his religious views and not enough doing his job representing the United States in the island nation off the southern coast of Italy.
“I doubt very much whether one could ever spend too much time on this subject,” Kmiec wrote in his letter to the president, defending his focus on religious issues.
We're not in a position to know the circumstances of Kmiec's departure, in particular whether he was negligent on the job. But either way, it brings a small-scale controversy to a sad conclusion.
As noted in the Politico piece, Kmiec was awarded the ambassadorship for his support of Obama in the 2008 election. A former member of the Reagan and Bush administrations and a prominent Catholic academic, Kmiec provided an intellectual backstop for "ObamaCons" and Catholic supporters of Obama. Kmiec's insistence that Catholics could vote for Obama despite his social liberalism, in particular, gave credence to Obama's efforts to attract the swing Catholic vote.
It's impossible to know Kmiec's intentions, but his justifications of Obama's policies from a Catholic perspective -- especially his defense of Obama as a functionally pro-life politician -- were tortured at best. A group of pro-life Catholic academics went so far as to create a website called Moral Accountability to hold Kmiec and others responsible for Obama's policies once he took office, although the site became redundant not long after Obama began implementing his agenda and it became clear that it wouldn't be pro-life in any way.
It now seems as though, whatever Kmiec's motivation for initially defending candidate Obama, he thought that he could serve some greater good by ingratiating himself to Obama. His cited failures as an ambassador -- focusing on areas of concern for the faithful at the expense of diplomatic work -- are evidence of his desire for accomplishments in that area. I wonder if he would have been as supportive of Obama as he was had he known how much, or how little, he would be able to accomplish through their alliance. Again, it's impossible to know what exactly was in Kmiec's mind in 2008 or the factors behind his resignation now, but either way his is a cautionary tale.